It’s a mute point

As English teachers across the valley often point out, being in the newspaper business doesn’t make one an expert (let alone proficient) in the all too complicated English language. I certainly don’t claim this type of status. I do, however, expect college-educated adults and upper-level managers in all types of businesses to have above-average communication skills. I expect these individuals—whether CEOs or journalists—to use language well. Specifically, I’m talking about spelling, grammar and word usage.

Some “common” grammatical mistakes and word misuses are so widely used that they have become adopted into everyday language. Is this because people have just come to accept such poor spelling and grammar habits—or do people simply not know any better these days? I’m convinced it’s the latter.

Are you ready for some examples? Let’s start with the abbreviation “e.g.”, which means “for example” (exempli gratia, to be exact). How many times have you seen people substitute “i.e.” meaning “that is” (id est)?

What about who’s and whose? One means “who is,” the other “of whom” or “of which.” You figure it out.

Here’s one I’ve actually seen in countless literary works: forward. Of course, this should be foreword, meaning “preface to a book or article.” Maybe I’m expecting too much from professional authors and editors alike. Not.

I recently read a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal business section about public speaking. The author—a professional journalist—made a reference to a “podium.” What she was referring to wasn’t a podium at all, but a lectern. You see, a podium is a platform (for those of you familiar with Latin, you’ll recognize pod as a reference to foot) on which one stands. A lectern, on the other hand, is a stand, or desk, used to hold notes or materials when giving a speech before an audience. Of course, a lectern could be on a podium. Could that be what she meant? I don’t think so. Reading further in the article, I noticed she also wrote about “high heals.” A reference to blisters, maybe.

On a national—make that global—level, Internet giant America Online isn’t helping matters with “You’ve got mail.”

You’ve got mail? Let’s see. “You have got mail.” My second-grade teacher is rolling over in her grave. Shame on you, AOL. Would it have been that difficult to say, “You have mail?” Too late now. We have an entire generation of Web-savvy kids saying things like “You’ve got the job” and “You’ve got a degree.” How about, “You’ve got smarter?”

Certainly, the subject of proper language use and spelling may be a moot point. Or should I say “mute” point? (Recognize this one?) For all intents and purposes ("intensive” purposes?!!), my rant will probably fall on deaf ears. I assure you ("insure” or “ensure") that I’ll keep you apprised ("appraised") of any notable progress in my movement to spread the word on the subject.

I welcome any responses to my rant. Just make sure you review your letter for accurate spelling, proper grammar and word use.